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Showing posts from February, 2012

Anabasis: Text # 3

Text inspired by writer Patricia Ann McNair's daily journal prompt #3, And this is how they get you:

And this is how they get you: waiting for you to step off the bus after school, watching you from behind the fence that rings the potato fields, snowballs embedded with sharp stones in their hands, watching for the moment when the bus pulls away, and you walk a few yards along the grass next to the bus stop, looking for a break in the traffic (there isn’t much traffic at this hour on a dark winter afternoon), and as you cross the road, they appear over the top of the fence and start hurling the snowballs at you with pinpoint accuracy, the first one catching you on the back of the neck so hard that you feel the warm blood trickling out of the cut, the next few snowballs thudding against your coat as you duck, and stagger, and try to dodge the assault, managing to keep your head from being hit again, but only at the expense of your back, and your elbows, and your calves, which are bar…

Susan Shulman: Notes from Down Under, Part 2

Guest blogger Susan Shulman continues her tour of art sites during a recent trip to Melbourne, Australia. Part 1 here.


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National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Visiting the National Gallery was my first exposure to the depth and beauty of Aboriginal art. I went into rooms filled with mesmerizing iconography and colours. These spaces of beauty lured me into their dreamlike worlds. The first things that I noticed were the shields, symbolizing various aspects of the power of respected ancestors.


In the beginning, the indigenous people adorned themselves, their shields, and the sand around them. They painted their “Dreamings.” The arc and circle shapes, designs, and tones of all the paintings evoke excitement on a very primal level of purity of expression. The dots are said to signify the sacred ceremonies of men. There were many great paintings, but taking photos was prohibited because of the sacredness of the imagery. These works were created instinctually, with minimal art supp…

Susan Shulman: Notes from Down Under, Part 1

Susan Shulman is a Canadian artist who I have featured on this blog before in her collaborations with the Kalicorp Collective, and the Mount Analogue project. In the next few posts, Susan turns guest blogger with her impressions from a recent trip to Melbourne, Austriala. All photos were taken by Susan Shulman.


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I spent three weeks combing the city’s galleries, museums and streets, eating and breathing art at every corner. What I thought would be an easy assignment has turned into an explosive overload of creativity. Melbourne is a city of inspiration, in a country of stunning beauty. It will take time to process all I have seen. These are the highlights.
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
I went to the State Library of Victoria to meet Robert Heather, curator and manager of Collections Interpretations at the library. I had no idea about the size of the building I was about to enter. I was shocked to find myself at the “Hogwarts-like” domed library in Melbourne Australia. Insid…

Meditation on Elizabeth Catlett

Number 96 in the series is in honour of Black History Month in the USA. It's about a print by African-American artist Elizabeth Catlett, who was born in 1915 and is still alive. She was interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago, relating to an exhibition that contains her work and the work of people influenced by her, that opened in Brooklyn recently.

Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 2/24/12

Text inspired by writer Patricia Ann McNair's daily journal prompt #2: I always thought. I always thought that my grandfather was a war hero, who had fought in World War II and killed German soldiers during a midnight raid on his unit, when they were cornered with their backs against a stone cliff and only dense trees in front of them, obscured by the thick darkness of night on the Italian mountains, their attackers blasting away at them from the natural cover, disposing of five men in my grandfather’s platoon in seconds, and presenting my grandfather with the certain prospect of meeting the same fate, until with a loud roar he charged forward at the wall of invisible attackers, the bullets pinging around him but missing him, as he let loose with his Sten machine gun, swinging the barrel from side to side like a fireman dousing a blaze from above, not knowing what he was hitting or where he was going, until he heard the click that told him his magazine was empty, and he realized he…

Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 2/22/12

"It all started when the military police came at dawn to tell us about the accident."

Text inspired by writer Patricia Ann McNair's journal prompt #32.

Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 2/20/12

"On our block there were pieces of coal lying all over the street."

Text inspired by writer Patricia Ann McNair's daily journal prompt #39.

Me and Audrey Niffenegger ...

... are featured in an article in this magazine, Fictionary, produced by the talented student faculty of the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. They interviewed me and Audrey about our artist's books--and I didn't know Audrey was going to be the co-featured artist, so I am flattered to be on the same page as she. I think they didn't exactly choose the best picture of me from the reel that they shot (I look stoned or half asleep, and I can assure you I was neither). But that aside, it's a good article (click on the image to enlarge it to a readable size):


Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 2/11/2012

"Here's how it all started". Text taken from writer Patricia Ann McNair's daily journal prompt #32.

"The Chicago Project" at The Co-Prosperity Sphere

The Co-Prosperity Sphere is a community-based organization and exhibition space on Chicago's south side. For a few weeks, until February 16th, it's showing work by painter and printmaker Watie White.

It was a little difficult to find information about what I was looking at while I was at the opening last week, but from what I can gather, the work on display consists of giant banners made from the artist's woodcuts, which are part of a proposed or actual mural. Each print is a portrait of a real person, with a phrase from that person printed in white letters over their face:



I actually met Watie at the Vermont Studio Center in 2000, and we both used the presses at the Chicago Printmaker's Collaborative for a time in the early 2000's, too, so I know his work pretty well. He has developed this very strong, direct style of woodcut, producing prints which are always interesting to look at for their high degree of technical skill and the stylistic trait of cutting lots …

Meditation on Martin Creed

This is Meditation number 95 - closing in on 100 now. It's about the work of British artist Martin Creed, who is the artist in residence at Chicago's MCA during 2012 (see my post on Hyperallergic for more about that.)

Anabasis: The Wall

In my studio yesterday, I put up a selection of works on paper that I completed in the last six weeks, related to the theme of "Anabasis: Journey to the Interior."

The Big, The Bold, The Beautiful

That's the title of a show that Patty and I went to see last Friday night, at a gallery a few blocks from our Chicago apartment. The venue is the Avram Eisen Gallery, owned and run by a friend of ours. We all met back in 2003, I think, when Avram attended one of Patty's aerobics classes.

(Yes, Patty used to teach aerobics. No, that is not why I married her.)

Anyway, Avram is a sterling chap, and we've been meaning to go to an opening at his gallery for a while. The occasion last Friday was the launch of a book called "Lather, Rinse, Repeat", by David Tabak, illustrated by Andy Finkle, who is one of Avram's artists. A lot of people crowded into the gallery to here Tabak read (click on any photo to display larger image):



Avram has kept his gallery and framing business going through the worst recession in 70 years. For that, and for his commitment to showing good quality art, he deserves every commendation.

I was particularly taken by the work of the other arti…

Clearing the Decks, Part 2

So once again, instead of doing the work I "should" do, I added more to that painting I started yesterday. The main change is that it's now the other way up -- I work on paintings from all sides, turning them round and keeping the rhythm of the wrist going from each direction, which means that sometimes (often) the shapes make more sense in a new orientation:


I'm glad I'm not at art college any more, because if I had to show this in a studio critique, I would not be able to say exactly why I did this. Except to say that it seems to be about rhythm, and some sort of memory of organic form, and trying to surprise myself by discovering the shape and the marks, instead of deciding on them in advance. Oh, and I forgot to add yesterday that it's 36" x 48".

I started a new one today, on two 18" x 24 " panels:


The way I found the shapes is the same as for the bigger one: I paint the swirls and circle forms almost to the edges, then I take some op…

Clearing the Decks

This is what happens when I go into the studio after a long absence: instead of working on things that I have a definite end-point for (like the Urbana public art project), I expend a lot of pent up energy in something like this, a 5' x 4' canvas I've been adding to and changing for over a year. Lots of thin and thick lines, in liquid acrylic and airbrush pigment, drawn with thin and thick brushes, and a Chinese ink-drawing brush. No discernible narrative content, so not related to the "Anabasis" project I've quoted in the last month.

Sigh.

"Tell me a Story" at the Center for Book & Paper Arts

In 2010, artist Rose Camastro-Pritchett spent a semester in China, introducing art students at a college in JiuJiang to a very unfamiliar idea: conceptual art.
Improvising materials and equipment, she set up a papermaking studio on the verandah of her apartment, and was soon showing her students how to make paper pulp, and then turn that into artist’s books and other paper-based art. The students were all competent in painting, but the idea of, well, starting with just an idea, or a memory, and then letting that dictate the form was something entirely alien to them.
In an exhibition that just closed at the Center for Book and Paper Arts in Chicago, Camastro-Pritchett exhibited some of the student work that she was able to bring back to the United States when the residency was over. Called “Tell Me a Story,” the show displayed a nice variety of pieces: dresses made from paper, the hems torn into strips on which were written a student’s personal memories:

Accordion books cut into the shap…